Movie Reviews: Man on Fire




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     20th Century Fox, (2 hr. 26 min.)
     An ex- CIA agent unleashes rage on an organized kidnapping syndicate.
     Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Christopher Walken
Bottom Line:

It's a Split Decision!

Samantha Ofole

Man On Fire joins the list of retribution flicks ruling our cinema's in recent weeks but sadly unlike its title it fails to ignite any sparks.

In this remake of Scott Glenn's 1987 movie, Oscar Winner Washington plays Creasy a suicidal, alcoholic ex-military veteran hired to serve as a bodyguard to 10 year old Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning), the daughter of a wealthy Mexico City businessman (Marc Anthony). When she is kidnapped Washington goes on a murderous mercenary rampage obliterating everyone who had an involvement in her abduction. His tactics and technique extremely brutal he attempts to tear the organized crime syndicate apart 'peice by piece' slicing the fingers of one and injecting a bomb in the rectum of another.

Initially with its slow crescendo and brilliant opening Man On Fire starts out very promising. The introduction alone with its dramatic tale of a kidnapping attempt made every 60 minutes is compelling, but it soon takes a nasty nose dive loosing some of it credibility and focus. The only pleasant and continuous delight is the darling Dakota Fanning who is extremely adorable and brings a powerful presence to the movie. As Pita her friendship with the initially distant and brusque Creasy is also appealing to watch as he slowly warms up to her in the first hour of the flick teaching her various skills and entertaining her innocent inquisitions -- thus you initially understand his loss when she disappears.

The use of visual techniques, cinematography and the haunting music are eerily reminiscent of Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic – the rapid flash editing, grainy footage, speedy still shots and the fleeting use of subtitles occasionally capitalized as though to enhance the intensity. In this case it ends up being more disorienting than entertaining.

There are a few quirky one liners and clichés mostly uttered by Denzel, ‘revenge is a meal best served cold’ and ex marine and friend (Christopher Walken) who ironically describes Washington as a mercenary whose ‘art is death.’ Plus the cute chemistry between Fanning and Denzel is the added bonus, but it is to be expected as both are very talented actors.

The title alone connotes bigger expectations but this latest offering of another vigilante seeking redemption is painfully predictable and tediously long lacking any gripping twists to an already hackneyed plot.

Laurence Cutrtis Washington

While "Man on Fire" failed to ignite any sparks with film critic Samantha Ofole, I on the other hand sat in the theatre for two an a half hours totally enthralled.

Admittedly, "Man on Fire" is just another in a long series of recent Hollywood remakes, a revenge flick in fact geared to whet our "this time we win" post 911 appetites. However, it’s slick, fun and thrilling.

Denzel Washington plays Creasy, a two-fisted, hard drinking burned-out ex-Special Ops soldier drifting around looking for his next gig. He wonders aloud if God will ever forgive him for the horrific things he’s done. Those horrible things are never revealed in the film, but the audience has a pretty good idea what they are by the closing credits.

On the recommendation of his friend Rayburn (Christopher Walken), Creasy is hired by a wealthy young couple in Mexico City to guard their 10-year-old daughter Pita (Dakota Fanning). The couple are worried that Pita may fall victim to Latin America’s No. 2 industry, kidnapping. Unknown to Creasy and Rayburn, Pita’s father (Marc Anthony) is really looking for a burned-out bodyguard like Creasy who he can temporarily employ to satisfy his insurance company’s requirements.

What nobody counted on, including Creasy, was Pita’s disarming personality crossing the chasm Creasy built to keep his feelings secure. Although he tries to resist Pita’s innocence and charm, Creasy slowly begins to bond with her, and the pair begin a loving friendship.

Predictably enough, Pita is kidnapped. It a good thing. Because Creasy would have a lot of time on his hands teaching Pita swimming, homework and training her new dog. Now what action/adventure movie worth its weight in AK-47 rounds needs that?

Creasy goes after the perpetrators with a vengeance throwing everything at them from rocket launchers to exploding suppositories. An artist of sorts, Rayburn says, "Creasy’s about the create his masterpiece."

Washington’s exhibits an excellent performance as he takes the anger he outwardly expressed in "Training Day," and holds inside. He allows the audience only a glimpse at his wrath as he unleashes it on his opponents. Director Tony Scott filmed the movie with a hand-cranked camera to give the film a jittery, cutting edge, gritty feel which intensifies the action – giving the film a sense of urgency. The outcome is predictable, but "Man on Fire" needs to be taken on its own terms – a Denzel Washington action movie. What do you what? Predictability isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s a certain satisfaction watching a movie that meets one’s expectations. "Man on Fire" met mine.



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